Public art key to being a true global city: experts

Artists and architects called for more "touchable" and "understandable" public art in the urban landscape at a forum held on Wednesday.
Ti Gong

Artists and architects called for more "touchable" and "understandable" public art in the urban landscape at a forum held on Wednesday, one day ahead of the opening of the city’s biennial sculpture exhibition.

Sculpture gives identity to a community and showcase a city's spirit, experts said at the Public Art Conference of the 2018 Jing'an International Sculpture Project. The sculpture extravaganza will kick off on Thursday and last to December 20.

“In the 21st century, it is the city's cultural image that really matters in the fierce competition among global cities. Everyone is striving to build a unique, exclusive and ethnic cultural image so as to enhance cross-cultural communication and make itself stand out,” said Dong Yu, director of Jing'an's urban planning bureau.

He added, "For Shanghai, it is a key aspect to level up the city."

According to Dutch artist Joseph Klibansky, public art, especially sculpture, makes a landmark, just like a skyscraper or tourist attraction.

"Shanghai is known for the Bund and the Oriental Pearl Tower. It will be great if such an international city is also known for its public art," he said.

He said sculpture is the name card of a city which can remind people where they are, just like the Cloud Gate in Chicago, which makes out-of-town visitors stay longer and also makes local residents feel proud, he added.

Menene Balaguer from Spain agreed.

She pointed out that public art is not "view-only" pieces in museums. Instead, it is part of the urban scene, which requires harmony with the surroundings. Also, public artwork, such as sculpture, is interactive.

According to Wang Lin, architecture professor from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, public art is more than a kind of art with aesthetic values, because it is part of the urban renovation that advances social development.

In densely-populated cities like Shanghai, healthy and sustainable ways of development are required. So, instead of massive demolition and construction, some pieces of art can really make a difference to an old community, she said.

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